I've always been fond of the Snow White story. In part, I admit, because many friends and ex-boyfriends have called me that.
And I've found myself writing about fairy tales lately – I like them, the real ones, because they are stories of the soul.
One reason we like them is that we relate to the heroine. No matter how old we are, we are Snow White, Cinderella, Sleeping Beauty, or Waking Beauty (as the case may be).
Practically speaking, however, in this new version of Snow White, called Mirror, Mirror, the Wicked Queen is Julia Roberts, so that's who we should be relating to, age-wise anyway. But who wants to relate to being the Wicked Queen?
We know this woman, of course, as a boss, as a coworker, as a "friend" at some point in our lives. But no one wants to think of themselves as the Wicked Queen.
Yet at midlife, you become conscious of her in a whole new way. As, that's how you're seen. Older women are portrayed in stories as bitches, witches, harridans, harpies and hags. And it's not just fairy tales.
Sometimes oversexed and pushy dominatrix types too. The mother inTwo and a Half Men comes to mind. Glenn Close in Damages. Betty White, not always, but sometimes being put in the bawdy, oversexed role, whereas in real life she seems charming, sweet, savvy, smart, and still very interesting!
Beauty Treatments with Bugs
One fun, and funny, aspect of the film: when Julia Roberts/Wicked Queen is beautifying for the ball (to seduce Prince Charming/Armie Hammer into marrying her). First of all, there really is a pedicure where little fish nibble off your dead skin (I've yet to try this, and may never). She also has all manner of other worms, slop, goo and manure slathered all over her body to get her party ready (and here I thought manure was just for Chocolate Pie, vis-à-vis The Help).
True, it is a bit more labor intensive to get party-pretty these days; this may make you decide to give it up all together. Although I cede that Armie Hammer may be worth it.
The New Prince Charming
After seeing Mirror Mirror, I went home and watched The Social Network — several times — there's two Armie Hammers in that. He's the perfect representative of the 21st century Prince Charming. Handsome, check. Sweet, check. Romantic, with a twinkle in the smile, check. Chivalric code in place. But also a little bumbling. And not quite sure what he's supposed to do when faced with overpowering feminine determination.
As an article I read recently (which I now cannot find) noted, women have done all this learning and growing in the feminine empowerment department, but men don't seem to have kept pace on this evolutionary trajectory. (Moms, what have you been teaching your boys?!?) As a result, they're just kind of confused and suspended between two worlds.
Fairy Tale Fashion
As for wicked fashion — I rather like the outfits worn by the Wicked Queen, before she becomes the wicked witch, in Disney's version of Snow White – rather sexy and body-hugging. Julia Roberts' outfits look a bit too big, ill-fitting, and dowdy, historical version. Except for the wedding dress – a rather spectacular assemblage of thousands of petals, which ends up looking kind of like a swan… I suppose it is her swan song of sorts.
Snow White's fashion has a sort of 3-D embroidery that's comely and very cool. She has an Audrey Hepburn/Eliza Dolittle-at-the-dance aspect at the ball. And her quasi-pirate get-up when she hits her empowerment quotient is sufficiently sexy.
The men hold their own though. All men look good in pirate/poet/puffy (vis-a-vis Jerry Seinfeld) shirts, even Nathan Lane. Johnny Depp in Pirates of the Caribbean, version 417 or whatever sequel we're up to now, is another case in point. I've said this before: I think they should bring these shirts back into men's fashion rotation, and make them mandatory at least once a week.
The dwarves are not your cuddly Disney version in primary colors. More grubby coal-miner meets Eugene O'Neill shipmate. But they have the most amazing, well, outfits for marauding that would appeal to more than just short men.
What's with Bangs as the Empowerment Haircut?
…or is it the sex haircut? I keep trying to figure this out. Snow White gets empowered, nabs prince, cuts bangs. Juliana Margulies' Alicia Florrick on The Good Wife gets empowered, goes sexy in the third season for her dalliance with Will and … cuts bangs.
Bangs? I always thought of them as little girl-like. And they make your face smaller. Older women often get them to hide forehead lines, which does make you look younger, but … I'm still trying to figure out the connection.
Overall, in case you can't tell, I liked the movie. It's visually arresting, there's a modern, PC plot, intriguing special effects, pretty clothes, romance, ... But what about the midlife woman as Wicked Witch?
I like the idea of people being afraid of me," a friend of mine said, laughing.
I get that. Better than being walked all over. And the role suits Julia Roberts – think My Best Friend's Wedding – as a chance to exercise her acerbic wit.
Acerbic wit is good, but the wicked witch represents bitterness, anger, and energy turned, well, evil. When energy is used that way, the power doesn't last long. Moreover, I'm sick and tired of women pitted against women — if there is anything that is keeping us down in society it's that — us.
With fairy tales as stories of the soul though, I think we're still the heroine, the ingénue, the leading lady of our own lives. Contemporary stories representing that: Diane Keaton in Something's Gotta Give, Meryl Streep in It's Complicated. What else though?
What about midlife women who are just that – the way so many men are depicted? Not characters that are exaggeratedly sexual, or evil, or even little girl-like. Women as women. Kathy Bates in Harry's Law springs to mind. Dana Delany in Body of Proof. Elizabeth McGovern in Downton Abbey? Maybe not substantive enough. Christine Baranski in The Good Wife!
I don't want to be the wicked queen, but boy, without a representative outlet for the truth of who we are, I can understand the appeal of turning into one. Watch out for the lightening bolts shooting from our fingertips. But only while we figure out how to be powerful without the pyrotechnics.